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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Reapportionment, Redistricting, And Electors

The census has a profound impact on the way that our nation chooses its leaders. The U.S. Constitution calls for two houses in Congress - one, the Senate, consists of two representatives from each state; the other, the House of Representatives, consists of 435 representatives, distributed among the states based on their respective populations. The size of the House is set by federal statute. After each decennial census, the new population counts are used to reallocate the number of districts per state, according to a mathematical formula set by law, based on the population of that state. Each state is guaranteed at least one congressional district regardless of population. This process is called “reapportionment.”

Under Title 13, U.S.C., the Secretary of Commerce is required to submit the state population totals to the President within nine months of Census Day. Title 2, U.S.C. then requires the President to submit the apportionment to the Clerk of the House within five days of the convening of a new Congress.

After the states receive the number of districts allowed per state, it is their responsibility every decade to draw the boundaries of those districts in their states. This process is called “redistricting.” In some states, the legislature is responsible for redistricting, while in others, independent commissions set redistricting plans.

Both reapportionment and redistricting directly impact the local, state, and national leaders voted to serve in office because of the politics involved in redistricting in each state. For example, many states, led by the majority party, have drawn districts in such a way that opponents to the majority party are sequestered in just a few districts, leading to district maps that are skewed towards one party. In effect this has lowered or even eliminated the competition for seats in the House of Representatives, which has impacted the competition of House seats nationally. This process is called “gerrymandering”.

Reapportionment also influences the number of electors that each state receives for presidential elections. The census is used to determine the number of districts of each state, which in turn determines the number of electors in each state. The number of electors in each state is equal to the congressional delegation, which is the number of representatives in the House and Senate combined.